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Some of you may remember that at the start of the 2011 season I wrote a review of each team [excluding Lotus – now Caterham – Virgin – now Marussia – and HRT] looking back to 2003. This year, I wish to explore these same teams and their rivals as far back as 1995. Here I will also look at the seasons with the current points system in place, as well as the respective contemporary systems. I will also apply a system that takes into account 24 slots on the grid, standing thus:
100, 80, 70, 60, 52, 46, 40, 36, 32, 30, 28, 26, 24, 22, 20, 18, 16, 14, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2.
We look now at the long-term Mercedes-powered McLaren team.
With an already impressive history, McLaren entered 1995 in the middle of arguably their biggest slump. In more recent ‘poor’ seasons, the team has always managed to scrape a win or two over the course of the year, but the best 1995 could yield was a pair of 2nd-place finishes for Hakkinen, both of which saw him beaten only by Schumacher. Ultimately the team finished the year in 4th place with a meagre 30 points – champions Benetton scored 147 – with both Ligier and Jordan less than 10 points adrift, with deficits of 6 and 9 points respectively. By today’s system Ligier close by a point, holding 138 to McLaren’s 143. Jordan drops right off the back of the French team, however. Under my system, McLaren drops to 5th place as Ligier take 1078 points, compared to the McLaren haul of 1016. For a team that only 4 years earlier was taking Ayrton Senna to a momentous win in his native Brazil, this was a painful time for the Woking team.
Although they remained 4th in 1996, McLaren were now within 20 points of both Ferrari and Benetton. Only the dominant Williams FW18 truly eluded them, and given the massive difference between Williams and 2nd-placed Ferrari, that is hardly a criticism of the team. Under today’s system McLaren go from 19 points behind Ferrari [18 down on 3rd place] to 9 down on the scarlet cars as they lose out to Benetton. Looking at how a similar closing of points meant a change of positions under my system the season before, you would be forgiven for thinking a pattern was emerging: it wasn’t. Although Ferrari were unable to return to 2nd place, they did at least extend their lead to 20 points against McLaren, keeping the British team in a definite 4th place.
1997 was the year McLaren transitioned from their old, midfield mediocrity into genuine contenders. Although they were yet again 4th by the end of the year, their 63 points were only 4 less than those of the declining Benetton team, and left Jordan trailing by 30 points in 5th. McLaren had confirmed themselves still among the big 4. That said, had the championship been decided by today’s system, the 46-point deficit to Benetton would tell a rather different story. Still, they held Jordan off by 63 points, so 4th was never in doubt. Much the same was shown by my system, although the difference between 3rd and 4th became nearly 250 points, while Jordan remained within 200. To their credit, how ever contrived a result it was, they ended the year with a 1-2 finish, giving Mika Hakkinen his first F1 victory – no mean feat, especially given he had nearly died in the MP4-10 at Adelaide 2 years earlier. McLaren was back, and with a new star driver.
1998 was the year Adrian Newey made everything good in the McLaren world. With 158 points, only Ferrari could stay within 100 points of the silver arrows, and in the end McLaren had an easy run to the title. Their lead over 3rd-placed Williams clears 200 points under the modern system, although Ferrari only lose a few further points. Under my system the title is decided by 190 points in McLaren’s favour over Ferrari, beating Williams by nearly 900 points.
In reality, 1999 saw them keep the Drivers’ crown but lose the Constructors’ by 3 points. Had the championship happened today, their defeat would have been by 45 points, while Irvine would have beaten Hakkinen by 21. To be fair, Irvine himself has since come out and said that the way he won a couple of his races meant he should never have been in the hunt in the first place, so although my system also gives Irvine the title – by 84 points – it is perhaps fair we record that as a Hakkinen victory regardless. As for the teams, Ferrari beat McLaren by almost 200 points under my system, proving that the Scuderia ultimately made a slightly better car than McLaren, but with arguably less competent drivers given Schumacher's broken leg.
A new millennium dawned, with Ferrari taking undisputed spoils. McLaren were 8 points shy of the title, while Schumacher beat Hakkinen by 19. McLaren were settling into their role of shadowing Ferrari, and Williams were working to claw their way back up the order to match them. By today’s standards, there was only a single point giving Ferrari the title, although Schumacher extended his lead over Hakkinen. Had my system been used, McLaren would have taken the 2000 crown, although nothing could have stopped Schumacher breaking Ferrari’s Drivers’ title duck.
Ferrari dominated the 2001 championship according to the numbers, but although Coulthard was barely able to take half over Schumacher’s points, McLaren did manage 4 wins that year. It was only enough for 2nd place, but they held Williams off well enough. Much the same would have happened under the current system, although Coulthard would have had about two-thirds of Schumacher's points. According to my tables, Ferrari and Schumacher walked the titles and McLaren were left to pick up the pieces.
2002, Ferrari’s dominant year when Schumacher never left the podium, saw a complete whitewash. The scarlet cars took both titles in some style, Schumacher taking 144 to Montoya's 50 points, although Barrichello managed to take over half of his teammate’s haul. By today’s system the only way the gaps decreased was in slight percentage terms, and the same happened again under my system. There is no question, McLaren were nowhere relative to Ferrari, and Montoya and Ralf Schumacher made sure Williams thoroughly beat their fellow British team.
McLaren were unlucky in 2003: they finished the year 16 points down on Ferrari, and only 2 shy of Williams. Talking of 2-point deficits; that is the margin by which Schumacher beat Raikkonen’s McLaren to the Drivers’ title. Even by the 2010 system, the McLaren squad were only 60 points short of Ferrari, with 339 points in total.
However, this left them only 3rd, with Williams also beating them by 13 points. To their credit, they beat the re-emerging Renault team [formerly Benetton] by 115 points.
In 2004 McLaren nosedived. Despite the 2003 improvements, they plummeted to 5th place. The MP4-20 scored 69 points, while Ferrari took the title with 262. Small wonder, therefore, they finished the season in 5th place behind Williams, with both BAR and Renault overtaking them. Once again, the current system only exacerbates their woes, as does mine. In all three tables they finish the year 5th.
2005 and the biggest rule changes since 1998 saw the team return to the top. In real terms, Renault took the crown, but had the 2010 system applied in 2005 it would have been McLaren taking the constructors' championship. Indeed, while McLaren would have taken the title by 8 points from Renaults 430, the only system in F1 history that gave Renault the title was the one then in force - and even then only by a point! Almost impossibly, given the sheer volume of points my system awards, the two teams both finish up on 2128 points, ultimately giving McLaren the title as they took 9 wins to Renault’s 8. Had Renault taken the win at Indianapolis and McLaren matched them for points, the end result would have been even closer than it was.
2006 saw Michelin favour the 2005 champions Renault as Bridgestone and Ferrari returned to the fore. McLaren dropped back to 3rd, but with 110 points, they were lucky not to fall further. First-time winners Honda were almost within 20 points of them, and coupled with Montoya’s mid-season firing, McLaren’s MP4-21 was hardly the best cockpit to be in. Yet again, today’s system offers much the same result, although my system allows Honda to close in percentage terms much more.
In 2007 they pulled off a triple whammy against their rivals: they poached Vodafone from Ferrari, Alonso from Renault and [dating back to 2005] Lewis Hamilton back to McLaren's Young Driver program from Williams, finally into F1 for 2007 as GP2 champion. This should have gifted them both titles on a plate, but the infighting between Hamilton and Alonso lost them the drivers' crown, and despite beating Ferrari by 14 points and taking the title, their disqualification from the constructors' championship removed that accolade too. However, this is an analysis of results not politics, and on the track, with a regulation-legal car, McLaren took the constructors' title in 2007. Their victory increases to 31 points under the current system, while mine pushes it to exceed 100.
2008 saw the loss of Alonso back to Renault and the acquiring of Heikki Kovalainen from the same team. Kovalainen was unable to match Hamilton's form for much of the year, which contributed to their loss of the constructors' title in 2008. They scored 151 points to Ferrari's 172, while BMW Sauber mounted a challenge from behind with 135 points. McLaren were never comfortable all year, but Hamilton did at least maintain the title by both the current format and my own. Likewise, McLaren maintain 2nd place.
2009 saw a drop in performance for McLaren. Although the most successful KERS team, they only managed 3rd with 75 points. To their credit they beat fellow KERS runners Ferrari by 8 points, but were nowhere near the top pair of teams. By today’s standards they remain 3rd, although Ferrari perhaps got unlucky in 2009 as the Scuderia overtake McLaren under my system, demoting the silver arrows to 4th.
In 2010 their luck improved slightly. The order in the top four remained almost identical, except for the rebadged Brawn team falling as Mercedes from 1st to 4th. McLaren therefore duly took their promotion to 2nd, which stands under both the contemporary system and my own. Of course, this was the first year to use the current points system, so there are only 2 formats applied from this point forwards.
2011 was a bit of a disaster for anyone who wasn’t Red Bull. McLaren held 2nd by over 100 points from Ferrari, a gap which under my system almost quadruples. However, last time McLaren were consistently in the top 3, they nearly took a title from the dominant force of the time. Perhaps that time is just around the corner, although 2012 saw them drop to 3rd both under the actual format and my own standings.
2013 sees them lose Lewis Hamilton to Mercedes, and the incumbent Sergio Perez has seemed a little over-eager in recent races. It will be interesting to see what happens from here onwards.